New Release: Update on Associate Attrition (CY 2020)

The NALP Foundation has released its annual Update on Associate Attrition report, a compilation of data on law firm associate hiring and departures for Calendar Year 2020, with an analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their hiring and retention efforts.

Among the key findings:
  • Overall associate hiring among participating firms declined significantly in 2020, decreasing nearly 50% from 2019.
  • In 2020, participating firms experienced an overall net loss in hires relative to departures.
  • Both entry-level and lateral racially/ethnically diverse associates had shorter tenures with their firm than their non-diverse peers.
  • The top reasons cited for entry-level and lateral associates’ departures differed:  for entry-level associates, these were “career change to other type of legal job” and “pursuit of specific practice interests” while for lateral associates, these were “unmet work quality standards” and “unknown reasons.”

Data from 126 leading law firms of all sizes from across the U.S. and Canada are reflected in this year’s report, providing robust empiric data. This Calendar Year 2020 report marks the 20th update from the NALP Foundation on associate hiring and attrition.  The full report (in PDF format) is available for purchase from the NALP Foundation's online Bookstore.

The annual Update on Associate Attrition series analyzes critical issues for law firm talent planning, including whether associates leave for peer firms, where associates go, why they leave, whether their employers consider their departures "desired" or not, and whether departures were related to performance, economic market conditions, or other factors.  The report also compares lateral and entry-level hires, and dissects the data by race and ethnicity, gender identity, and firm size, as well as hiring sources, including OCI programs and diversity fellowship/scholarship programs.


Media Coverage

Associate Attorney Hiring Down "Dramatically" in 2020 (Law360, April 20, 2021)

The Associate Job Market Took a Wild Ride in 2020.  Is it over yet? (Reuters, April 21, 2021)

Young Attorneys' Job Prospects Expected to Rebound This Year (Law360, April 23, 2021)
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